Tour operator: job description

Tour operators are responsible for organising and preparing holiday tours. They follow trends in the popularity of destinations and packages, and adjust company plans accordingly.

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Skills in other languages would be a big advantage in this role.

What does a tour operator do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Due to Covid-19, you may find it difficult to gain work or experience as a tour operator. As we explain here, however, recruiters will not view time out of work due to the pandemic as a 'gap' in your CV. For guidance on searching for work during this difficult time, take a look at our advice for job hunting during a pandemic.

Responsibilities of a tour operator vary according to the time of year and size of employer, but generally include:

  • deciding how many holidays to sell each season and the resorts/countries to use
  • visiting resorts to ascertain accommodation quality and suitability
  • liaising with coach operators, airlines, hoteliers and resort reps
  • agreeing service levels, contracts and costs
  • confirming customer names with airlines/hotels
  • collecting, evaluating and responding (as appropriate) to customer feedback
  • using market research information to guide decisions
  • producing brochures and internet-based information
  • providing pricing information
  • marketing holidays to clients via travel agents, websites, brochures and television advertising
  • handling bookings, invoicing and issuing of tickets
  • predicting profits or number of bookings
  • working with travel consultants from different travel agencies to put holiday packages together
  • combining travel, accommodation and services such as sightseeing arrangements to create holiday packages.

Typical employers of tour operators

  • Private touring companies
  • Small specialist organisers
  • Major international tour operators
  • Bespoke tour designers
  • Cruise liners.

Vacancies are advertised online and in trade publications including Travel Trade Gazette and Travel Weekly, as well as their online equivalents. Networking and speculative applications are advisable. A few larger companies operate graduate training schemes. Paid summer vacation jobs may be available with some employers.

Qualifications and training required

A degree is not a standard formal requirement for this role, though it may be an advantage. Degrees in leisure, travel, tourism, management, marketing, IT, business, languages or hotel and catering management are particularly likely to be relevant. Relevant professional or vocational qualifications, such as NVQs and HNDs, may also be beneficial.

Pre-entry experience gained working with the general public or within the hotel, tourism or travel trades (particularly overseas) will strengthen your applications and improve your chances. It may be possible to start work in a tour rep, tour guide or travel agent role and then move on to a tour operator position.

Key skills for tour operators

  • A demonstrable interest in travel
  • Knowledge of key holiday destinations
  • Foreign language skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Customer service skills
  • Organisational skills
  • IT skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Good time management skills.

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